November 27, 2011
ASLA Oregon LANDbytes NOVEMBER 2011 Feature:
This Land is Your Land
By Rebecca Wahlstrom
“Whose streets? Our streets.”
While watching the drama of Occupy Portland recently unfold in our downtown parks, I started to think about public spaces and how we use them here in Portland. Portlanders love their city; public spaces are heavily used for events like farmers markets, outdoor concerts, and food fests, just to name a few. A big part of what makes Portland rank so highly as a livable and vibrant place is that a lot of people get out and enjoy the heck out of their city. Imagine parks with picnickers, kids on the playground, and a hard-core game of horseshoes going on in the background. Now start walking down a city sidewalk and you might see plazas filled with people enjoying the sun, or playing music, and bikers resting next to fountains flinging water into the air. Different people using the same space in different ways and yet co-mingling in such a way that makes that space an exciting place.
For more than a month, Chapman and Lownsdale Squares were utilized in a very different manner than the picture I’ve painted above, as they had become the alpha and beta camps of Portland’s portion of the Occupy movement. Wanting to know more about the original intent and historical use of these Portland parks, I found that they were originally designed in the late 1800’s to be gender specific: women and children in Chapman Square, and men were to gather in Lownsdale Square. Interesting… Then I looked up the two parks on Google maps to see what they had to say: a comment made in June 2011 said of Chapman Square, “Makes walking through the city so much nicer.” A comment made of the same park in October of the same year stated, “Occupy Portland. We are the 99%.” Those two comments show a big change in tone and utilization of the park in a few short months.
Being a conscientious reporter, I did further research and found an interesting 30-minute program that highlighted ideas on public space by people like Don Mitchell, Galen Cranz and Sharon Zukin (sadly, no landscape architects were included). http://blog.papertiger.org/2011/10/07/open-to-the-public/
They raised some interesting points about public perception and regulation of spaces, like Zukin saying that the public regulates what happens in public space by either accepting or disapproving of behavior in those spaces, and that public space has to provide for all of the needs of a population. Recent events have shown that a breaking point can be reached in public perception, especially when a public park is no longer truly public anymore, but a city within a city. Lownsdale and Chapman parks were no longer serving the needs of the general public, but serving the needs of a small portion of that public. After more than a month of protesters living in these two parks, the mayor ordered that the Occupy movement move on, requiring them to carry on their quest in a different manner.
Americans hold their “right of the people peaceably to assemble,” as they should, but does that mean that they have a right to occupy a public space for an indefinite amount of time while fighting for a political and social ideal? Is the inconvenience of the occupation essential to the movement? This question is being raised all across the nation, case in point when the courts in New York recently upheld the mayor’s right to remove protesters from a public park. Occupy people will be required to follow the imposed New York park rules, just like any other inhabitant of the city. Does the right to peaceably assemble override the responsibilities we have as citizens and co-habitants of our cities? Does the end justify the means; the ‘end’ being an increased awareness and a shift in our social paradigm? Since the Athens Agora and the Roman Forum, public spaces have served as places where people could discuss business, politics, religion, and current events amongst a setting of government, temples, and commerce. Our right to freely discuss and debate issues is part of what makes our country so great; I hope that our public spaces continue to be a venue for lively and informed conversation by people who want positive change.
November 27, 2011
ASLA Oregon LANDbytes NOVEMBER 2011 Feature:
Phytoremediation in Landscape Architecture: It’s a Park, It’s a Wetland, It’s a…..?
By Jeff Boggess, Landscape Designer from GreenWorks
Many common everyday trees, shrubs, perennials, and even invasive weeds like Indian Mustard and Pennycress have the remarkable ability to absorb and chemically breakdown nutrients like nitrate and ammonia, and even harmful elements like lead and arsenic. These plants concentrate and remove pollutants that would otherwise potentially continue to spread through soil, air, and groundwater. For example, arsenic is sometimes left behind in agricultural soils by herbicides and pesticides, but can be remediated by Chinese Brake Fern, which is able to absorb large amounts of arsenic within its fronds. Although plants and the micro-organisms that inhabit their roots have been providing this service since the beginning of time (most notably through the absorption of CO2 gas and release of breathable oxygen), only recently have these cleansing abilities become an established science and designated ‘phytoremediation’ - the process of using plant-based strategies to clean air, water, and soil.
Instead of relying on conventional methods that can be environmentally disruptive, financially costly and energy intensive, phytoremediation simply capitalizes upon basic plant biological processes, and the constant natural flow of elements from soil to roots as food. Luckily for us, many plants aren’t particular about whether these elements are found naturally occurring in the soil or added by humans. Pollutants are taken up by the plants roots where they are chemically modified through the plant’s metabolism and evapotranspired as harmless gas, or they are stored within the plant’s biomass which can then be harvested and processed. With the removal of harmful substances, we are able to benefit not only from cleaner air, water, soil but also prolonged habitat improvement, and the enhancement of diversity and vitality in urban and rural areas by integrating phytoremediation into public space.
Portland and the Willamette Valley offer many outstanding case-studies where landscape architects and engineers have collaborated to integrate phytoremediation sensitively into both urban and rural contexts. From “Green Street” stormwater facilities, to first-of-their-kind, large-scale poplar plantations, projects in this region explore the boundary between functional facilities and designed public amenities. In Portland, the abundance of curbside stormwater planters, like those that can be found along bike boulevards, validate the design ability of Oregon landscape architects and engineers, who depend on support from the local government and from Portlander´s unique willingness to invite these features into their daily lives for the sake of the common good. With that said, it’s no wonder that the International Phytotechnology Society chose Portland this year as its venue for the 8th Annual International Conference.
Portland´s reputation for visionary stormwater and wastewater management has reached an audience extending well beyond the Northwest, being confirmed by the enthusiastic scientists, practitioners and government officials who were in attendance at the Conference coming from faraway places like the Netherlands, India and Malaysia. The idea of ¨Portland Sustainable Design¨ in the minds of these individuals seemed almost like a brand in itself, akin to ¨German Precision¨ that they had come to soak up and take home for application in their own cities and towns.
Where other workshops during the week focused on smaller scale examples of phytoremediation like green roofs, rain gardens and other forms of urban stormwater facilities within the Portland area , the one in which I took part traveled into the Willamette Valley and visited 5 large-scale wastewater treatment applications. Renee Stoops of SPROut (The Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach Center, the hosting organization of the Conference for the week) guided our group by bus to two Poplar Remediation Plantations; Woodburn Waste Water Treatment Plant, and the Riverbend Landfill which treats effluent/biosolids and landfill leachate respectively, and three constructed wetland projects treating effluent coming from wastewater treatment facilities (Albany Talking Water Gardens, Willowlake Treatment Plant, and the Oregon Garden). The facilities represented an interesting progression over the course of the day from purely pragmatic places of remediation in the form of row after row of poplars growing behind chain link security fences and going quietly about their business of absorbing wastewater, biosolids and leachate; to constructed wetlands that were functional not only in their treatment capabilities, but also invited the public with pathways, waterfalls, seating areas, and interpretive signage.
Bringing phytoremediation into the public realm blurs the boundary between science and design and becomes an intriguing point-of-connection between biology and landscape architecture. Although this was done voluntarily in the projects visited during the workshop, in the future, particularly in urban areas, this approach will likely become a necessity as open spaces that can serve these two invaluable purposes (remediation and public amenity) independently become scarcer. Leading international landscape architects like Michael Van Valkenburgh and James Corner are two of many that are already capitalizing on this relationship, bringing a new layer of credibility to the holistic, contextual, stewardship-driven approach which the landscape architecture profession prides itself on. Parks, streets and gardens must continue to be designed for human-friendly enjoyment and retreat, but they also have the potential for meaningful enrichment by becoming places of sustainable renewal and investigation.
With local projects like those showcased at the Phytotechnology Society Conference demonstrating Portland as an international leader in the field, what better place than here to continue to promote the ¨blurred¨ landscapes that combine science and design? The Northwest region is recognized as a hub of sustainable design and we should consider the role landscape architects might play in the advocacy and distribution of these visionary ideas. Along with the landscape architect’s understanding of space, circulation, programming, planning, ecology and plants, phytoremediation adds the next layer of significance to the landscape and may push us into a new chapter of the profession.
Whitney Water Purification Facility, by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
with Steven Holl Architects, New Haven CT
Poplar Remediation Plantation, Woodburn Wastewater Treatment Plant, Woodburn OR
Albany Talking Water Gardens, Willowlake Water Treatment Plant, Albany OR
November 27, 2011
ASLA Oregon LANDbytes NOVEMBER 2011 Feature:
Growing Fresh Insights at the University of Oregon
By Logan Bingle, Undergraduate of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
In recent years, urban agriculture has become a widely popular idea. Just this year, the APA published a guide on issues planners should consider when incorporating urban agriculture into their work. At the University of Oregon’s Landscape Architecture Department, urban agriculture is not just a fad, but a subject that has been used to inform design and promote the field of landscape architecture.
The University of Oregon’s Landscape Architecture Department began exploring urban agriculture in the 1970s when Professor Richard Britz founded the Urban Farm on a plot of land across Franklin Boulevard from the University of Oregon. Unfortunately, Richard Britz was not granted tenure at the University of Oregon and left the university’s faculty in 1981. Ann Bettman took over the Urban Farm and kept it going through the 1980s despite threats from development and low class attendance. Things began to change in the 1990s with renewed interest in urban agriculture.
Since 2000, the Urban Farm has been a wild success. Around 2000 students have passed through the Urban Farm’s spring, summer and fall classes. A wide range of students have taken the classes, including Freshman Interest Groups, Environmental Studies Majors, Architecture Majors and many others. In an odd twist, the Urban Farm’s director, Harper Keeler, reports that landscape architecture students are a minority in the Urban Farm classes. In a survey of landscape architecture students, Harper found that most students feel that urban agriculture is important to the field but feel they cannot fit the class into their schedules. Despite this lack of Landscape Architecture students, Harper emphasizes that the Urban Farm plays an important role in exposing the Landscape Architecture Department to the wider University community. Indeed, several freshmen who have taken the Urban Farm Freshman Interest Group have gone on to join the landscape architecture program.
The Urban Farm is not the only department effort in urban agriculture. In 2010, the Landscape Architecture Department began a second urban farming effort across from the Eugene District Courthouse. This effort was a partnership between the Oregon Federal District Court Chief Judge Ann Aiken, the University of Oregon Landscape Architecture Department Professors Ann Bettman and Lorri Nelson and the City of Eugene. The new Courthouse Garden aims to serve a social mission, originally aimed at inmates and paroles, with the support of University students and volunteers.
In the one and a half years since the Courthouse Garden began, the program has begun to shift away from its original inmate and parole program because of logistically difficulties. The Courthouse Garden’s director, Lorri Nelson, has begun to refocus the garden on at risk youths and other social missions. Recently, the Courthouse Garden has been hosting work parties from local schools for at risk youths, such as the MLK School, as part of the Landscape Architecture Department’s Courthouse Garden classes. This allows both groups of students to learn and support each other.
The Landscape Architecture Department’s efforts in urban agriculture do not end with practical work either. Beginning with Richard Britz, there has been a great deal of research done on urban agriculture at the University of Oregon. The first major work after the 1970s was completed in 1995 by Kelly Donahue, who looked at six campus farms on the west coast and their resurgence in the 1990s. Harper Keeler has also conducted researched on ways that urban farming can contribute to the education of landscape architects and ways urban farming can be incorporated into the landscape architecture curriculum.
Currently, there are several graduate students at the University of Oregon exploring issues surrounding urban agriculture. Expecting to graduate this fall or winter, Patty Stevenson has been looking at large scale planning issues concerning community gardens. Her work looks beyond food production to consider community gardens that also produce cut flowers and are aesthetic works produced in a cooperative spirit. This shows how issues of urban agriculture can transcend purely practical ends to wide ranging design considerations.
This is the most important lesson taught by the University of Oregon Landscape Architecture Department’s work in the field of urban agriculture. While urban agriculture can be purely practical, it can also help inform our work as designers. The Urban Farm, Courthouse Garden and urban agriculture research at the University of Oregon promise to bring new ideas, talent and public exposure to the field of landscape architecture.
November 27, 2011
via Landscape Architect and Specifier News
We cordially invite you to showcase your firm in LASN’s upcoming “Parks” issue for March 2012.
Show Issue: LA EXPO - Long Beach
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Submissions are due by December 9th.
Contact: Steve Kelly, senior editor
(714) 979-5276 x12
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